When producing reflections lots of value comes from revisiting the same experience multiple times.
Reflecting immediately after an experience allows you to capture ‘hot feelings’
A great general tip for producing reflections is to consider your experience of a critical incident immediately after it happens to capture ‘hot feelings’. Hot feelings tend to be overwhelming like frustrations, anger, or excitement and can shape your experience and thoughts of it.
This is valuable to capture as thoughts and feelings change over time and therefore so do our memories of events. Capturing your immediate reaction, for example as written notes or as a voice recording, allows you to access it later.
You may find that it is easiest to use ‘free-form’ reflection (see ‘Free-form reflection’) to do the immediate reflection or generally just capture and work through your thoughts and feelings in no systematic manner. Alternatively, you might find it easier to capture your first reflection using a structured approach and ask yourself a series of known questions, or work through a model.
Free-form reflection (within the Reflectors’ Toolkit)
Use immediate reflections to inform later reflections
Revisiting your immediate reflections and notes as a basis for later reflections when the feelings have cooled down can help you to remember how you felt at the time. The distance can help you to put the situation into context and identify general learning points without being too biased by any initial strong emotions.
Similarly, by capturing and revisiting immediate reflections, you do not risk misremembering details or retelling yourself the story so often that the details change. For example, you might not think of yourself as an angry person, and therefore if you wait too long after a situation where you felt angry, you might remember it as you being mildly annoyed because it fits your own idea of yourself better.
When you revisit reflections, it might be helpful to use a more systematic manner than the immediate reflection, for instance by using a reflective model. However, free-form reflection can also easily be used if that works better for you.
Using both initial and later reflections can help you surface more learning and thereby get more out of an experience. This is valuable whether or not you are reflecting for personal gain or for a course, and is appropriate regardless of the way you reflect – for example in writing, by yourself, or with others.
The other pages in ‘Producing reflections’ provide further guidance and ideas to help develop your approach to reflection.
Producing reflections (within Reflectors’ Toolkit)